Will the international community one day imprison popes for “hate crimes”? The question isn’t as outlandish or idle as it sounds. In April, the United Nations debated a resolution that calls upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights “to pay due attention to the phenomenon of violations of human rights on the grounds of sexual orientation.”
The vote on the resolution has been postponed until next year, due to rancorous debate. But what if it passes? Would a pope teaching that homosexual acts are sinful be targeted as a violator of human rights?
A Vatican cardinal, not seeking attribution, recently said he could foresee a day when a pope is arrested as a hate criminal for teaching Catholic moral doctrine. The ancient pagans chained St. Peter; the modern pagans in the European Union may one day handcuff one of his successors.
Many European politicians already view Catholicism as one big hate crime. Several Dutch parliamentarians have been campaigning for several years to kick the Holy See out of the United Nations. Netherlands politician Joke Swiebel — actual name — is leading the charge. “The main question is: Do we want ‘true believers’ of any religion to use the power of the state to force their ideas and prejudices on others?” he says.
In 2000, a Dutch group calling itself “The Friends of Gay Krant,” after a Dutch homosexual magazine, actually tried to put Pope John Paul II on trial for criticizing a homosexual parade in Rome. The Pope had described the parade as an “offense to Christian values in a city that is so dear to the heart of Catholics all over the world,” and said that homosexual acts are “contrary to natural law.” The “Gay Krant” magazine itself filed a complaint with the Amsterdam district attorney’s office, saying that the “Pope’s comments give rise to hatred against, or discrimination of certain groups of people.”
The news agency Ananova reported that the group also “asked the district attorney to request Italian cooperation to investigate whether the Pope should be questioned about possible violations of criminal law regarding inciting hatred…Henk Krol, the editor of the magazine, admitted the prospects of prosecuting the pontiff were dim, but the symbolism of the complaint was important.”
Pope John Paul II managed to escape justice. The Dutch courts dropped the complaint on the grounds that he wasn’t Dutch. As head of the Vatican state, they said, he had immunity from their jurisdiction.
But an arrested pope is not a historical anomaly. It is more like a European tradition. Pope Pius VI was arrested at the end of the 18th century. He had condemned the UN types of his day active in the French Revolution. He rejected their “Rights of Man” and tried to stop the secularization of the French clergy. “[B]eware of lending your ears to the treacherous speech of the philosophy of this age which leads to death,” he said. He ended up dying in Valence under French arrest. The French also nabbed Pope Pius VII. Napoleon, after reaching a concordat with the Church, seized papal territories in 1809 and had Pius VII locked up in Fontainebleau until 1814.
The Church today, even in its weakened form, is still a threat to European ambition. Watered-down Catholicism is still too much Catholicism for Europe. For example, when Pope John Paul II mildly suggested that the European Union constitution merely acknowledge Europe’s Christian roots, several European leaders balked. “There has never been that kind of reference in the treaties. As the representative of a secular state, I am not in favor of religious references,” Jacques Chirac said to the French press. Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Louis Michel was quoted as saying he is “radically against a religious reference. This is absolutely unacceptable.”
The French Revolution lives. The “Rights of Man” may soon include the right to prosecute anyone who questions them, no matter how absurd they become. For many in the EU and UN, the final enlightenment won’t arrive until the last conservative Republican is strangled with the entrails of the last pope.